Irish Local Development Network

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ILDN Welcomes Government Strategy to Support Community and Voluntary Sector

Share: Posted on August 29 2019

Irish Local Development Network welcomes Publication of Government’s Strategy to Support the Community & Voluntary Sector in Ireland.


Irish Local Development Network, the representative body for the country’s Local Development Companies have welcomed the publication of ‘Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities’, the government’s new strategy to support the community and voluntary sector. 

The strategy sets out to create a vibrant and active civil society but it also recognises the current challenges caused by policy developments and funding reductions made during the recession that impacted the capacity of the community, voluntary and Local Development sectors to support communities.

ILDN Chairperson Marie Price Bolger highlighted the strategy’s commitment to a renewed community-statutory partnership which is essential to bring about better outcomes for communities,

“The recognition that such partnership must be underpinned by strong, autonomous community development and local development structures has allowed the strategy to reconceive of the state’s relationship with civil society and as a cross-government document, this is to be welcomed.

“Irish Local Development Network and its members in the Local Development Sector also welcome the government’s recognition of their work with long-term unemployed people which it states ‘would be almost impossible for central government to replicate’”.

The Irish Local Development Network was a key play on the Cross-Sectoral Group that Co-produced the plan and Price Bolger adds that,

“As the Strategy now moves into its implementation phases, ILDN and its members will play a key role, working with the other stakeholders, to help turn the objectives into reality.”

Ireland’s 49 Local Development Companies deliver extensive social and community supports services such as LEADER, Local Employment Services, the national social inclusion programme (SICAP), Tús, Rural Social Scheme etc to 173,000 individuals and almost 15,000 community groups annually.

Irish Local Development Network welcomes additional €5m in LEADER Funding

Share: Posted on July 22 2019

The representative body for the country’s Local Development Companies who deliver the LEADER programme has today welcomed the government’s allocation of an additional €5m funding to the LEADER Programme in the Rural Development Plan.


Irish Local Development Network vice-chairperson, Éamonn Ó’ Reilly, said that the extra money for the rural economy will have a significant positive impact,

“In the current environment, this extra funding will help realise the potential of many rural entrepreneurs and communities. Local Development Companies are making great progress in advancing the 2014 – 2020 LEADER programme and this allocation will assist extra communities as we come near the end of the current funding round.”

Minister Michael Ring has indicated that extra allocations will be made this coming September. O’ Reilly says all LEADER companies are well advanced in delivering on the Local Development Strategy for their area,

“the Local Development Strategy is crucial for all parts of rural Ireland and LEADER is central to delivering on its objectives in a much wider way than grant -giving alone. Through the LEADER programme, local communities are pressing ahead with strategically important projects and we are available to assist them with their plans.”

For follow-up: Éamonn O’Reilly 087 9677034 or
Joe Saunders 0879379572

Irish Local Development Network CLG is supported by The Scheme to Support National Organisations which is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Rural and Community Development.

ILDN Submission on Smart Villages

Share: Posted on June 04 2019

The Smart Village concept is set to be central to European funding and policy post 2020. Hers, ILDN sets out its response to ENRD's formulation of the concept and how the LEADER/Community-Led Local Development approach is best placed to harness the opportunities.

ILDN at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs & Social Protection

Share: Posted on March 06 2019

ILDN were invited to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs & Social Protection on April 2nd 2019 to discuss the recent Indecon Reports on Local Emplyment Services and Jobs Clubs. The following Opening Statment was  presetned. the full transcript of the proceddings is avialable here

Opening Statement April 2nd, 2019

Irish Local Development Network CLG (ILDN) is the representative body for the country’s 49 Local Development Companies (LDCs). These are not-for-profit, multi-sectoral partnerships that deliver community and rural development, labour market activation, social inclusion and social enterprise services across the country. LDC boards comprise of local, voluntary directors alongside public-sector personnel and in many cases employers, unions and elected representatives. They link to Local Economic & Community Plans and Local Community Development Committees, ensuring wide-ranging oversight and democratic accountability.

Last year, LDCs supported more than 15,000 communities and community groups and 173,000 individuals by delivering approximately €330 million worth of programmes on behalf of Government Departments and state agencies. Examples include the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (known as SICAP), LEADER, education, childcare, public health and social enterprise programmes and employment supports.
The latter include the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Tús, Rural Social Scheme, Local Employment Service, Jobs Clubs, Community Employment and Jobs Initiative. Currently 19 Local Development Companies manage 23 Local Employment Service (LES) Contracts.  The remaining 3 are also managed by not for profit companies. These activation supports are integrated with other social inclusion supports, facilitating jobseekers to simultaneously avail of complementary services such as training, childcare and health promotion.

Indecon Review of Local Employment Service and Job Clubs

In 2017 Indecon International Economic Consultants completed reviews of the Local Employment Services and Job Clubs across the country.  It should be borne in mind that in 2016, the LES service had been considerably altered from its original purpose and formulation focussing on long-term unemployed to a caseload and purpose reformatted for crisis times. Hence, the evaluation was not focussed on the LES model as it was designed but rather a reformulation that was rapidly constituted. We are now in an era more akin to what the LES was originally designed and this submission, whilst addressing the content of evaluation, will have a later focus on the employment services model required for today’s operating environment.
The value of the initiatives under review in 2016 was circa 25 million euro. Combined the services  employ circa 400 qualified and experienced staff. In 2016 the Local Employment Services assisted 47,025 individuals and Job Clubs assisted a further 19,663 a combined total of circa 66,000 unemployed individuals in 60 separate locations.

Indecon Main Findings

Indecon reviewed three main areas of performance for both reviews. 1) Placement into employment 2) Client satisfaction with services provided and 3) employers satisfaction with services provided. 

Placement rates

Indecon reported that LES achieved a placement rate of 28.8% against a target of 30% set by DEASP.  It should be noted that only employment over 30 hours is included in this figure.  Excluded from this calculation were the following

• Jobs placement under 30 hours (automatically excluding part time work, females returning to the workforce via part time work.
• Placements of unemployed people on CE or TUS
• Unemployed people who returned to education.
It is against this background that the 28.8% achievement is independent evidence that the LES performance is excellent when compared with like operations nationally and internationally.  Similarly, the Job Clubs performance of placing 30% of one-to-one clients into employment is an excellent result in the context of the above measurements.

Client Satisfaction

75% of LES clients reported that their interaction with LES had motivated them to seek work or undertake further education or training. A further 71% of LES clients said that the LES supports had improved their employment prospects. 79% of Job Clubs clients reported their interaction with Job Clubs had motivated them to seek work and 80% said their employment prospects improved as a direct result of Job Clubs interactions.

Employer Satisfaction

89% of employers surveyed reported that the LES had helped their organisation find suitable candidates for vacancies.  83% of employers reported that LES had provided an efficient recruitment service for their organisation and that employees provided by LES were reliable and performed well.  In relation to Job Clubs, employers were equally positive regarding the performance and quality of the relationship they had with their local Job Clubs.  79% of employers said the Job Club helped then find suitable candidates and 75% reported that those referred by Job Club performed well and are reliable.


Indecon recommendations
The two Indecon reports total over 300 pages and whilst there are many findings which we could engage with in more detail, the focus is rightly on the future. In that regard, Indecon have made seven recommendations and we will use our time to discuss the merits or otherwise of these

1  Merger of Jobs Clubs and Local Employment Services

The first recommendation is that given their close relationship consideration should be given to merging Job Clubs with Local Employment services.
ILDN believe this recommendation would provide for a more integrated service to jobseekers.

2 Governance

Indecon recommends that LES/Job Clubs contractors should adhere to Best Practice Governance. 
ILDN fully supports this recommendation and notes currently that all LDCs are all registered companies with voluntary Board of Directors. They are all not for profit organisations and are all registered charities.  All LDCs with an LES Contract hold the Q Mark standard. As the companies hold contracts for several programmes across many funders, there are multiple accountabilities in place including to ODCE, CRO, Revenue Commissioners, ESF, funder audits as well as oversight through LCDCs and linkage to Local Economic and Community Plans.

3  Overall Resources for LES and Jobs Clubs

Indecon states that “Given the very significant reduction in the levels of unemployment, we believe that this should be reflected in the overall resources provided for LES and Jobs Club by the state.”
ILDN and its member companies fundamentally dispute the logic of this assertion. As employment recovers from crises, those who are most job-ready return to employment first and they require the lowest levels of intervention and support. The ESRI this year noted that “As employment increases, those who are remain unemployed are likely to experience multiple barriers to labour market participation meaning that employment is far from an immediate realistic prospect for many of them.” (ESRI, 2019, Proposal for Evaluation of SICAP Pre-Employment Supports p.4).
For this reason, “job creation alone is not sufficient in ensuring full employment’ (ibid p.1) and there is a difference in the services needed between activation in a time of recession and activation in a time of recovery and growth (cf. DEASP, 2016, Pathways to Work, 2016 – 2020).
At this point, the marginal cost of assisting others to access the labour market rises. Local Development Companies and their LES operations work with those most distant to the labour market. Lack of marketable skills allied to social barriers require deeper and longer intervention than that required when unemployment rises to 16 or 17 % followed by radical state action to increase competitiveness.
In addition to the varying costs of intervention for people of different job skill levels, there are additional costs associated with the policy objective of assisting the extra groups of unemployed and underemployed who are not on the Live Register e.g. those in receipt of other DEASP payments, those in precarious employment and those whose jobs are at risk from automation and other new technologies. Employment support services should be assisting people toward job sustainability and productive or ‘Decent Work’ to use the International Labour Organisation’s description and which is an integral element, (Goal 8), of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Therefore, whilst budget headings must be reviewed for current needs, the claim that a decrease in Live Register numbers in a post-crisis environment should lead to a decreased budget for Employment Services is deeply-flawed and not arise from any of the evidence collected.

4  Focus on “the most disadvantaged and other activation groups who are not currently obtaining assistance from other state delivered/funded programmes.”

ILDN agrees with the configuring and resourcing of employment services in this way. Given the buoyancy of employment creation currently, the support of those groups not currently able to access Decent Work should be an actively-pursued policy objective. These groups include those with the following barriers:

5  Multi Annual Contracts

The reports recommend that DEASP should consider multi annual contracts in order that delivery agents can plan effectively. 
This recommendation is welcomed by ILDN whose members already successfully operate Multi-Annual contracts such as the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP).

6 Configuration of Local Employment Services

We will reverse the order of Recommendations 6 and 7 in order to give more time to Future Services. On configuration, Indecon recommends that amalgamation of services may be required in order to achieve greater economies of scale and efficiencies in services particularly in areas where there are very low numbers of unemployed.
ILDN note that there are multiple numbers of TUS/RSS contracts, multiple numbers of SICAP contracts and while economies of scale should be explored, the grounded and local nature of TUS/RSS and SICAP are major contributory factors in the success of both these programmes. One is managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development, the other by DEASP itself. Both Departments can testify to the effectiveness and efficiency of contract management by small teams in each.

7 Procurement

Indecon recommends that active consideration is given to an open/public competitive procurement model for future provision of services and DEASP has indicated that that it is preparing to follow this recommendation and procure for services within three months with a view to having such contracts in place for January 1st, 2020. ILDN makes the following observations:

Firstly, there are many current examples of Government funded programmes that are not contracted by Government Departments through an open procurement model, particularly in the labour activation area. In fact, successive governments have decided that the large majority of activation programmes are not suitable for procurement in this way.

Secondly, if there is to be a new procurement process, it should keep the needs of job-seekers and value for the taxpayer at its core. This will require an objective assessment of all inputs and deliverables. Currently, effectiveness of employment services is evaluated by a single indicator – placement in employment of 30+ hours per week. Whilst successive DPER reports (e.g. 2018 and previous Spending Reviews) and the Indecon Report have rightly sought to ensure value-for-money in changed employment circumstances, they have ignored the higher costs of interventions on the journey to employment of those most distant from the labour market.  The Institute of Employment Studies emphasises the importance of assessing soft outcomes that focus on individuals facing particular barriers - “target groups that are facing multiple barriers to employment may be a long way from being able to acquire a qualification or employment. Consideration of soft outcomes for such groups is a crucial indicator of success”. (IES, 2000). The current approach used in LES companies is an adult guidance and mediation model. Staff have been recruited for their skills and experience in this area and they participate in ongoing professional development. Given the complexity of barriers faced by the remaining unemployed cohort, a sustainable model to promote the progress of all jobseekers must take the ‘distance travelled’ into account.

If commissioning is to be considered, it must fully take into account the objectives of the service and the costs of delivering all parts of that service including the elements of the journey to job-readiness and job-placements. The pre-qualification criteria to enter a commissioning process should therefore include extensive track record in supporting the target group, specialized staff skills in career guidance and job mediation, accessible linkage and reputation amongst the target group, established linkage to referral to ancillary services, employer linkage, commitment to combatting social exclusion as evidenced by mission statement.

There is a range of quantitative and qualitative indicators that can be used to more effectively design, fund and monitor employment services than the current single indicator and we would welcome the deployment of a framework appropriate to the current challenges.

Thirdly, international experience in competitive contracting of employment services by payments-by-results model has yielded unsatisfactory and unintended results including:   I refer the committee to relevant academic literature, in particular the work of Greer and others. The downsides of a privatised, pay-by-result model include
• It removes experience – the upfront investment required eliminates community organisations (i.e. those with a track record) from competing. Local Development Companies, as delivery agent for government, are generally prohibited from retaining a profit on most of their programmes including LES and thus, their lack of reserves will remove them from a payment-by-results model.
• Gaming the system by Creaming (prioritising the low-hanging fruit), Parking those most distant from labour market and Coercion of those who wish to build a career rather than accept low-pay, precarious work are among the methods identified by the literature whereby a payment-by-results model offers poor service to jobseekers and the state.
• Whilst open commissioning may initially appear attractive in cost terms, these are quickly offset by increased and often unclear commissioning costs. More crucially, however, is the likelihood that taxpayer will be tied into expensive, inflexible contracts often designed for a different phase of the boom/bust cycle. It prohibits the service from adapting to the inevitable changes in the operational environment over the duration of the contract. In practical terms, a competition can only be run every three to six years, locking all parties into pricing and services that may be more appropriate to a different time.

ILDN recommend that whatever procurement model is devised it needs to take cognisance of:
• The social inclusion aspects of delivering a local employment service targeted at people most distant from economic activity. 
• The Not for Profit contract model operated by the Department of Community and Rural Affairs for the SICAP.  A Not for Profit model of service provision routed through LDCs will result in value for money for Government, provide efficient quality wrap around services for individuals, offer effective deployment of resources and give high levels of governance.
• LDCs, given their national coverage provide a readymade and workable solution to the challenges facing DEASP in regard to expanding services to include large elements of Social Inclusion work with targeted cohorts.  The success of the TUS, RSS and the BTWEA schemes are current examples, offering value-for-money and agility to the contracting Department.
• Any changes to the current model require a greater lead-in time than 8 months given the need for an ongoing service to jobseekers, the rights of current employees, the proper planning and development by local boards and the requirement for political and value-for-money assessment arising from such fundamental changes to arrangements in place for almost a quarter of a century.

Benefits of a Community – Based Not-for-Profit Provision

Irish Local Development Network recognises that Public Employment Services need ongoing adaptation to meet the changing needs of jobseekers but points to the success of the not-for profit community model since 1991 and its greater effectiveness over a privatised, payment-by-results model in addressing deep-rooted unemployment. The reconfiguring of the community-based model for the current challenges offers jobseekers and the state the optimum solution.
LDCs deliver integrated services seamlessly to jobseekers on all parts of the employment journey and can extend to offer a national employment service for all who need it. Such an integrated approach is identified as necessary by the EÚ’ Country Report on Ireland, 2018
“Some progress made, with the presentation of the Action Plan for Jobless Households, but groups furthest away from the labour market still require an integrated approach to helping them enter it”. 
The added value of the integrated LDC approach includes:
• It builds on SICAP pre-employment supports as well as with other initiatives designed by LDCs to “assist disadvantaged individuals to reintegrate into the labour market outside of these formal programmes.” (ESRI, 2019).
• Area-based but national coverage already in place, accessible/acceptable to local people
• It builds on and integrates with Tús, BTWEA etc
• Agility – proven capacity to put services in place quickly cf. creation of Tús programme at full quota within 12 months.
• 89% Employer approval – employers know that LDCs have no financial interest in an unsuitable match.
• Can give ongoing supports to those in work
• Multi-sectoral links - employer orgs, SOLAS/ETB, HSE, Tusla, childcare, CIC, DATFs etc
• Robust governance, already reporting through multiple public accounting procedures
• Values driven – social inclusion
• High skills of LDC/LES staff – mediators, counsellors etc


ILDN is of the view that the two Indecon reviews clearly indicate that the LDC provision of Local Employment Services and Job Clubs has been a major success.  ILDN recognises the need for change to best address the current operational environment – we can accommodate such change with the same agility with which we responded to the growth of the Live Register with changing caseloads and the creation of the Tús scheme. LDCs are adaptable and will support change in order that services on offer are in line with the changed economic environment.  While it may seem attractive to reduce the number of LES contracts while at the same time increasing the coverage of services, ILDN would highlight the fact that local wraparound services are an important factor in the success as reported by Indecon and evidenced as needed by the EU Country Report, 2018.

Finally, ILDN considers that a not for profit model of procurement, open or confined, is the option that offers the client a holistic and fruitful level of services, offers employers an economic recruitment model that has meaningful and positive impacts in every community around the country and offers the state best value for money.



Irish Local Development Network,Tait Business Centre, Dominic St, Limerick

061 404923

ILDN Submission on review of NAPSinclusion

Share: Posted on January 22 2019

Review Consultation re. NAP for Social Inclusion 2007 - 2016 and Updated Plan 2015 -2017 (NAPinclusion 2007 -2017)


Irish Local Development Network CLG (ILDN) is the representative body for the country’s 49 Local Development Companies (LDCs). These are multi-sectoral partnerships that deliver social inclusion, community and rural development, labour market activation and social enterprise services. LDCs support more than 15,000 communities and community groups and 173,000 individuals annually through €330 million of state-funded programmes. The national Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is delivered exclusively state-wide by 46 ILDN member organisations. ILDN supports its members through liaison with funders, research and policy development, publicity and communications, networking opportunities, advocacy and representation, training, group procurement (e.g. insurance), vetting, employer issues etc.

Review of Plan

ILDN welcomes the opportunity to participate in the public consultation to review the Implementation of the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007 – 2017. Our submission focusses particularly on the Updated Plan 2015 – 2017.
The Plan has made an important contribution to facilitating a more inclusive society through the setting of targets and the provision of monitoring and oversight as well as reporting on same. However, progress on many of the plan’s themes has been slow and, in some cases, regressive. 

Low Pay - Ireland continues to have the highest incidence of low pay in the EU 15 at 23% of the workforce, increased from 20% in 2006.  Whilst the state ameliorates this through welfare transfers (Working Family Payment and Jobseekers Allowance for part-time workers) to such an extent that the in-work poverty rate is low by European standards, labour market and wage policies that force citizens into welfare are detrimental to inclusion and full participation in society.  Wage policy is therefore a core aspect of inclusion.

Employment Security - is also a core component of inclusive labour practices. Whilst casual and irregular employment has a role to play in a dynamic economy, citizens must not be denied the opportunity for regular, protected work with fair contracting conditions. Weak public provision of vital services (childcare, housing, health, addiction and transport services) compound the effects of precarious employment in Ireland, impacting on the health (physical and mental) and social participation rates of citizens. 

Employment Services – key aspects of current employment services are impacting negatively on the promotion of social inclusion e.g.
1. the lack of a national employment service,
2. the practical exclusion of those not on the Live Register from existing services,
3. limiting those who are very distant from job-readiness to a single year on Tús,
4. part-time work is a valid pathway to progress in employment especially for those most distant from the labour market. Currently, employment of less than 30 hours per week is not given sufficient recognition in DEASP outputs and incentives,
5. the privatisation of employment services on a payment-by-results basis,
6. Employment services generally require a greater focus on soft supports (confidence-building, personal development, dealing with anxiety and low esteem) for those who are socially excluded and most distant from the labour market.

Linkage to Wider Social Inclusion Provision - Overall, the linkage of the Action Plan to the state’s national Social Inclusion Programme (SICAP) is weak. DEASP’s annual Social Inclusion Forum plays a useful function in giving a voice to socially excluded groups but this needs to be complemented by greater links to the Programme and data from the ongoing SICAP monitoring framework.

Linkage to Community Policy – similarly, the Communities section of the Updated Action Plan would benefit from greater alignment with the Local & Community Development in Ireland (Our Communities) Framework Policy.  Whilst Goals 11 - 14 of the Plan are titled ‘Communities’, they do not mention community work or work at community level, so it is not possible to monitor results in a community context.


Relevance of Institutional, Monitoring and Governance Structures – given the location of the national social inclusion programme, SICAP, in the Department of Rural & Community Development, this may be a more suitable base for the Plan – alternatively, greater linkage between the Plan and the wider statutory social inclusion framework is required.                                 ENDS 15/01/2019

ILDN at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural & Community Development

Share: Posted on October 08 2018

ILDN Representatives attended the Committee's hearing on Sustaining Small Rural Business on Septmeber 27th 2018 and gave a comprehensive presetnation on the issues and challenges associated with rural business and the ways in which LDCs support it. Proceedings are available by copying this address


ILDN Opening Statement – September 27th 2018


We thank the Committee for its invitation here today. The work of Irish Local Development Network and its members is deeply entwined with the objectives of the committee in promoting viable rural communities.

I, Eamonn O’Reilly CEO of NEWKD (North East & West Kerry Development), am joined by my colleagues, Mr. Declan Rice, CEO Kilkenny LEADER Partnership, Ms. Martina Earley, CEO Roscommon LEADER Partnership, Mr. Jim Finn, Chairperson, North Tipperary LEADER Partnership and Mr. Joe Saunders, Manager, Irish Local Development Network.

Irish Local Development Network CLG (ILDN) is the representative body for the country’s 49 Local Development Companies (LDCs), 35 of whom operate in rural areas. These are not-for-profit, multi-sectoral partnerships that deliver community and rural development, labour market activation, social inclusion and social enterprise services across the country.

LDCs operate in operate in urban, rural and island communities of all population profiles and densities. Last year, they supported more than 15,000 communities and community groups and 173,000 individuals by delivering approximately €330 million worth of programmes on behalf of Government Departments and state agencies.

Of these, 11,237 community groups and 83,400 individuals were in rural areas.  5,731 rural dwellers were found employment through the LES; 3,116 moved to self-employment; over 5,000 moved onto the Tús scheme and almost 3,000 provided valuable services on the Rural Social Scheme. A further 1,500 plus are employed in social enterprises that have been supported or set up by Local Development Companies.

The range of programmes delivered by LDCs allow for an integrated approach to rural development.  Examples include LEADER, the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (known as SICAP), Local Employment Service (LES), Rural Social Scheme, Rural Recreation and Walks Schemes, social enterprise supports, Social Farming, education, childcare and public health programmes.

ILDN supports its members by providing a wide range of network services including representation to funders, policy development and research, employment issues, training, group insurance, Garda vetting, maintenance of thematic and regional committees etc. The network is the largest provider of local and community development supports and services in the state.

In addressing rural sustainability and rural business, we would like to focus on five key principles and then invite the members to address any questions and engage in further dialogue.

1          One-Stop Shop Approach and Innovative Brokerage

Rural communities are increasingly confused and frustrated by the plethora of uncoordinated and fragmented rural funding schemes and programmes with many contradictory qualifying criteria, released in an unplanned, ad hoc manner.

LDCs are well placed, given their working methodology and local links and reputation, to signpost and coordinate rural and community development funding on a one-stop shop basis, similar to what LEOs do with enterprise funding. They bring the added value of 25 years’ experience of animating rural communities to participate and lead their own development as fully as possible both with communities of high capacity and those with more ingrained challenges. As a result of their work on the LEADER and other programmes, LDCs have a recognised experience of supporting, transferring and leading innovation in their regions.  ILDN proposes to formalise that “Innovation Brokerage” as part of its range of animation services.

Community development is a key feature of Irish life and its form here is globally unique. Many communities feel under threat and under-resourced – integrated programme planning and resourcing will be a more effective solution for such communities. There should be one integrated rural development strategy for an area for a 5-year period which covers LEADER and all other national RDP funds.

2          Community-Led Local Development (CLLD).

The community-based bottom-up methodology of LDCs is key to their effectiveness. This includes an emphasis on pre-development work, community animation, building capacity of individuals and communities, accepting the individual’s starting point and customising appropriate local solutions. LDCs have over a quarter of a century experience of animating communities and are rich in the skills and relationships needed for effective work in this area. The positive impact of LDCs in independent reviews of SICAP, LEADER, LES and BTWEA testify to the effectiveness of the approach.

CLLD aims to promote integrated approaches of territorial development. It offers potential savings and increased effectiveness in rural policy. The added-value of LEADER / CLLD manifests itself in:

o Improved social capital, which is understood as a multidimensional concept, which includes features of social organisations such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. This in turn supports improved social innovation and strengthens the bottom-up ethos.

o Improved governance comprises the institutions, processes and mechanisms through which public, economic and civil society stakeholders articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences in order to manage public affairs at all levels in a collaborative manner.

o Enhanced results and impacts of programme/strategy implementation, as compared to implementation with-out the LEADER method. [1]

We welcome that the EU is seeking to broaden the uptake by member states of the CLLD approach post 2020. We hope that the Irish Government will incorporate CLLD across all the EU funds from 2020 onwards as such an approach will provide the kind of bottom-up enabling environment needed for meaningful social development.

3          Recognising the Specific Features of Rural Areas

Irish rural social structures are changing and whilst we may lament many of those changes, freeze-framing rural communities is not an option. We must recognize the features of rurality that require specific solutions and be prepared to act on them

Looking at employment, for many rural dwellers, the choice is to migrate, remain un- or under-employed or create your own job. That is why the impact of 3,116 people supported into self-employment last year is so significant – imagine the headlines if one employer created over 3,000 jobs in rural Ireland. However, the BTWEA work undertaken by LDCs achieves less headlines because of its wide dispersal throughout every community in Ireland. There is obviously a very positive impact on people’s lives by creating their own job but this can only happen if the right supports are in place including broadband, bottom-up business supports, the availability of effective animation services, transport, etc.

Similarly, Local Employment Services run by LDCs placed 5,700 people in employment last year. Although the LES is operated in just a handful of rural counties, LDCs in rural areas are doing their best to cobble together employment services and supports through a mixture of other programmes. What is now needed is a national community-based, not-for-profit employment service that encompasses and recognises the nature of rural unemployment, underemployment and seasonal employment.

Social Enterprise – The 2013 Forfás report on Social Enterprise estimated that there were approximately 25,000 jobs in Ireland in the social enterprise sector i.e. approximately 1.25% of the labour force. This contrasts sharply with the EU-wide profile where 10% of companies are social enterprises and these employ 11 million workers, equal to 6.5% of the EU workforce. These figures are higher in rural, remote or poorer regions, many of which have socio-spatial profiles similar to Ireland’s. (source: EU, European Network for Rural Development, March 2017). According to the Forfás report, “if Ireland’s social enterprise sector were to approach mean EU levels of output or the goal set by the EU under the ‘Europe 2020’ Strategy, it is estimated that there could be at least 65,000 (jobs) in social enterprise in Ireland.” (p.3).

ILDN welcomes the appointment of a senior minister with responsibility for social enterprise and the forthcoming publication of a national strategy for the creation of an enabling framework for the support and growth of the social enterprise sector. This strategy must ensure that the appropriate resources and supports be made available to the potential social entrepreneurs so that the potential identified by Forfás can be realised.

Social Inclusion – the Department of Rural and Community Development has responsibility for SICAP, the national social inclusion programme and this a is a key programme in enabling rural Local Development Companies to employ staff and operate many of the other state programmes for which there are no management fees. So, SICAP is a key “enabler” especially in those rural areas where there is no LES. SICAP has suffered very deep cuts in the past eight years and requires significant restoration of funding if it is to retain staff.

Current LEADER Programme Processes:
All parties to the current LEADER Programme have acknowledged the severe difficulties in its effective delivery due to its inherent design problems. Notwithstanding ILDN’s anticipation of the problems introduced at design stage, the member companies have worked closely with DRCD and LCDCs to ensure accelerated rollout although the principal blockages are in parts of the process outside our control. Credit must be given to the Minister and officials for realising in 2017 that the programme was in crisis and implementing changes to the Operating Rules. These changes were the minimum needed for the programme to function. Ideally, more radical reforms would have been necessary to truly liberate the programme, such as:

the securing of a block exemptions for LEADER with regard to state aids regulations.
the facilitation of LAGs / LDCs having full access to all the ‘priorities’ of the RDP: this would have facilitated our being truly flexible to the challenges of rural areas and allowed us to extend our integrated approach.
a ‘facilitatory’ inspection and monitoring regime which recognises that LEADER is about innovation and area planning.
My Colleague, Mr. Rice will later address the issue of autonomy of LDCs as LAGs and how this was a more efficient system over the first 17 years and how the change has elongated the supply chain of LEADER funding to the detriment of rural communities and businesses.
It is imperative that all parties reflect on and learn from the current programme and apply the lessons to all future processes aimed at developing and animating rural communities. The New Rural Development Programme should provide greater flexibility for LEADER to be implemented as a genuine bottom-up approach to rural development with significant potential to harness local knowledge and bring renewed innovation. The European Council’s new CAP Regulation states that it is “fundamental to address structural problems in rural areas such as lack of attractive employment opportunities, skill shortages, underinvestment in connectivity, infrastructures and essential services, as well as youth drain”, and the need to “strengthen the socio-economic fabric in our rural areas. Given the broad scope of this CAP agenda and the structural problems of rural Ireland, the menu of LEADER interventions should remain necessarily broad and flexible in order to address the needs of specific rural areas.

Research by the European Commission points to some structural weaknesses among the farming community that are impeding a collective approach to shortening food supply chains, problem solving in the areas of environmental issues, sustainability and embracing the potential of alternative farm enterprises. The research also found that a ”lack of trust, lack of social capital, along with lack of communication and mutual understanding between farmers have been shown to discourage farmers from engaging in collective actions”. Local Development Companies are rooted in rural communities and already support micro enterprise creation through SICAP, LEADER, and other supports, so are well-placed to promote this CAP agenda with local small to medium farmers on behalf of the state and EU. We have been supporting unemployed people who have an entrepreneurial idea to start their own business through a DEASP scheme called BTWEA. This model has proven to be an effective policy response particularly during high levels of unemployment. A similar approach could be included in next LEADER programme to provide enhanced animation supports targeted at our small to medium sized farmers to address some of the above weaknesses, including succession planning, finance, social capital, leadership, and innovation.

We would also encourage the government and department to ensure that the maximum level of LEADER funding is availed of through CAP. Overall, we should be looking to secure a minimum of €400 million for LEADER in the next programme.

5          Smart Villages

The Cork Declaration 2.0 in 2016 emphasises new approaches to overcoming the digital divide between rural and urban areas and to develop the potential offered by connectivity and digitisation of rural areas. Emphasis was given to the need for integrated approaches and the interaction between different policy fields in view of increasing complementarity and coherence. This relates not just to being technology-smart but finding ways from the bottom-up to avail of opportunities and address challenges across the whole range of rural life including service provision, enterprise development and culture. There is much potential in this approach and with Local Development Companies are already implementing this approach, my colleagues will be happy to elaborate on this area.[2]


ILDN again thanks the committee for this invitation and welcomes the opportunity now to discuss these and other relevant issues with the Committee and we will be happy to take any questions.


Irish Local Development Network

Tait Business Centre, Dominic St, Limerick 061 404923

Manager: Joe Saunders

[1] European Commission, CLLD Evaluation Guidelines, August 2017

[2] European Commission, EU Action for Smart Villages, 2016

ILDN Response to CAP Consultative Conference

Share: Posted on October 03 2018

ILDN has submitted a comprehensive response to the CAP Consultative Conference held on July 4th by the Department of Agriculture,Food and the Marine

Irish Rural Parliament

Share: Posted on September 20 2018

IRP Meeting for 08/03/2019 has been postponed till later in the year. More details later

Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) Announce Irish Rural Parliament for Tullamore March 2019
DATE 18/09/2018
At a time of increasing pressure on democratic processes across Europe it’s a breath of fresh air to hear about a movement that has been growing in rural areas.  In a number of countries, ‘Rural Parliaments’ have emerged, made up of a partnership of all stakeholders who have an interest in supporting rural areas to develop and become more attractive for people to live and work in.  Ultimately these ‘Parliaments’ give the opportunity for rural communities to support each other in addressing issues such as de-population and loss of key services.
In Ireland, the Local Development Network (ILDN) representing all Local Development Companies (ILDN) operating across the country has this week announced that they will facilitate the first Irish Rural Parliament in Tullamore on March 8th 2019.
Their aim is to work in partnership with all rural stakeholders including those representing farmers, rural women and youth, the community and voluntary sector and rural services providers. 
Rural parliaments are forums for discussion and debate, established to give voice to rural populations of the country, to influence policy and practice and to develop networks between those in rural areas, nationally and internationally.
They operate as informal, inclusive, participative structures whereby individuals and organisations with an interest in rural life are invited to attend annual gatherings of the parliament, where issues are presented, discussed and actions decided on. 
There are a growing number of such parliaments throughout Europe, though there has not been one in Ireland to date. These civil society movements bring forward the collective views of the people that live in the rural communities though a ‘bottom-up’ approach.
In Ireland, Local Development Companies are charged with implementing development supports to enable such ‘bottom-up’ and are perfectly positioned to facilitate the successful development of Ireland’s inaugural Rural Parliament.
They are represented by Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) and collectively they provide direct social and economic supports to over 11,000 community groups and 83,000 individuals in rural areas each year.
ILDN Vice-Chairperson, Éamonn O’ Reilly believes that the Irish Rural Parliament will offer a new voice and new opportunities for rural groups and communities,
“we have seen how Rural Parliaments in Europe have given rural communities opportunities to shine a light on pertinent issues and offer an informal space to meet with and influence policy-makers. The Irish Rural Parliament will bring together those with ideas and those that can make things happen for rural Ireland.”
Éamonn O’Reilly Vice-Chairperson, ILDN, 087 9677034
Joe Saunders, Manager, ILDN, 087 9379572
Note to Editor
ILDN comprises Ireland’s 49 Local Development Companies, of whom 36 are rural- based and operate LEADER, Rural Social Scheme, Rural Recreation and Walks Schemes, Tús, Community Employment, social farming, social enterprise, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance and a range of other programmes.

New contact details

Share: Posted on April 26 2017

ILDN's head office is  Unit 24, Tait Business Centre, Dominic Street, Limerick. The landline is  061 404923. The email address is  The Clondalkin office and associated landline are no longer operational. The ILDN Manager, Joe Saunders, can be contacted on

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